•Water and terrorism
•Business risks of water
•Water and ecosystems
•Floods and droughts
•Environmental justice and water The book contains an updated chronology of global conflicts associated with water as well as an assessmof recwater conferences, including the 4th World Water Forum. It also offers a brief review of issues surrounding the use of bottled water and the possible existence of water on Mars. From one of the world's leading authorities on water issues, The World's Water is the mcomprehensive and up-to-date source of information and analysis on freshwater resources and the political, economic, scientific, and technological issues associated with them.
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The World's Water 2006-2007
The Biennial Report on Freshwater Resources
By Peter H. Gleick
ISLAND PRESSCopyright © 2006 Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security
All rights reserved.
Water and Terrorism
Peter H. Gleick
As the twenty-first century unfolds, concerns over the real and imagined risks of terrorism have risen much higher on the global list of worries and priorities. These concerns have spilled over into the area of water resources, causing experts and policy makers to review possible terrorist threats to developed water systems and, ultimately, human health and politics. Modern society depends on a complex, interconnected set of water infrastructure designed to provide reliable safe water supplies and to remove and treat wastewater. This infrastructure is both vital for civilization and vulnerable to intentional disruption from war, intrastate violence, or terrorism.
Violence of all kinds against, or in the name of, the environment is not new, but it does appear to be on the increase. Because water is such a fundamental resource for human and economic welfare, threats to water systems must be viewed with alarm, and care must be taken to both understand and reduce those risks. Past chapters of The World's Water have looked in detail at the issue of water and conflict and the role that water plays in the realm of international security (Gleick 1998, chap 4; Gleick 2000, chap 2; and http://www.worldwater.org/conflict.html). The focus of this chapter is the connections between water and terrorism.
The chance that terrorists will strike at water systems is real. Water has been used as a political or military target or tool for over four thousand years. Water resources and systems are attractive to terrorists because there is no substitute for water—it is a vitally necessary resource. Whether its lack is due to natural scarcity, a physical supply interruption, or contamination, a community of any size that lacks fresh water will suffer greatly. Furthermore, a community does not have to lack water to suffer. Too much water at the wrong time can also lead to death and great damage.
Water resources are vulnerable to terrorist attacks in the form of explosives used against delivery or treatment systems or with the introduction of poison or disease-causing agents. The damage is done by hurting people, rendering the water unusable, or destroying the purification and supply infrastructure. Some important water facilities, such as dams, reservoirs, and pipelines, are easily accessible to the public at various points. Many large dams are tourist attractions and offer tours to the public, and many reservoirs are open to the public for recreational boating and swimming. Pipelines are often exposed for long distances. Water and wastewater treatment plants dot our urban and rural landscape.
What is less clear, however, is how significant such threats are today, compared with other targets that may be subject to terrorist attack, or how effective such attacks would actually be. Analysis and historical evidence suggest that massive casualties from attacking water systems are difficult to produce, although there may be some significant exceptions. At the same time, the risk of societal disruptions, disarray, and even overreaction on the part of governments and the public from any attack may be high.
As an example of the economic and human chaos that even moderate disruption or contamination might cause, an outbreak of Cryptosporidium in Milwaukee in 1993 killed over 100 people, affected the health of over 400,000 more (MacKenzie et al. 1994), and cost millions in lost wages and productivity. The outbreak, unrelated to terrorism, was thought to be due to a combination of an improperly functioning water treatment plant and pollution discharges upstream. But a similar undetected outbreak in a larger city might cost billions, kill many more people, and, if caused intentionally, lead to panic.
This chapter will not offer any new information for those hoping to harm water systems. Rather, I hope it will be useful in identifying where productive and protective efforts to reduce risks would be most useful on the part of water managers and planners and in helping to reduce unnecessary fear and worry. Proper and appropriate safeguards can significantly reduce the risks and the consequences, if an event occurs.
A popular scenario for a terrorist attack on domestic water supplies involves putting a chemical or biological agent in a water-supply system, such as a reservoir, or using conventional explosives to damage basic infrastructures, such as pipelines, dams, and treatment plants. This is not as straightforward as it sounds. The number of casualties that would result from such an attack depends on the system for water treatment already in place, the type and dosage of poison ingested, individual resistance, the timing of an attack, and the speed and scope of discovery and response by local authorities.
Most biological pathogens cannot survive in water, and most chemicals require very large volumes to contaminate a water system to any significant degree. Many pathogens and chemicals are vulnerable to the kinds of water treatment used to make it potable for human use. Indeed, the whole purpose of municipal water systems is to destroy biological pathogens and reduce chemical concentrations through chlorination, filtration, ultraviolet radiation, ozonation, and many other common treatment approaches. Many contaminants are also broken down over time by sunlight and other natural processes. Most infrastructure has built-in redundancy that reduces vulnerability to physical attacks.
Because of these safeguards, one commentator noted:
It is a myth that one can accomplish [mass destruction] by tossing a small quantity of a 'supertoxin' into the water supply ... it would be virtually impossible to poison a large water supply: hydrolysis, chlorination, and the required quantity of the toxin are the inhibiting factors (Kupperman and Trent 1979).
Perhaps more important than the actual casualties, however, would be the public perception and response. Society reacts differently to natural and human-caused disasters, with a level of acceptance to natural disasters not matched by reaction to intentional acts of violence. As we have seen in the past several years, overreaction to terrorism is a common governmental and public response, when the impacts are compared to impacts from natural disasters or accidents. As a result, the adverse reactions that result from an effort to contaminate or damage public water systems may be both significant and underestimated. The solution to this must include efforts to both prevent such attacks and educate the public and media about actual risks and consequences. In all cases, these efforts must be commensurate with the freedoms we enjoy in an open, democratic society.
There are many definitions of terrorism, and more than 100 have been reported (Schmid 1997). One of the earliest known definitions appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1795 as "a government policy intended to strike with terror those against whom it is adopted." This early definition, however, has been substantially modified in typical modern usage. The term now usually excludes official government actions and refers to violence perpetrated by subnational groups or individuals for political or social ends.
The problem of defining terrorism has now become part of some actual definitions. The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Politics (2nd edition, 2003) begins its definition:
Term with no agreement amongst government or academic analysts, but almost invariably used in a pejorative sense, most frequently to describe life-threatening actions perpetrated by politically motivated self-appointed sub-state groups. But if such actions are carried out on behalf of a widely approved cause ... then the term 'terrorism' is avoided and something more friendly is substituted. In short, one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (28 CFR Section 0.85) defines terrorism as "the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives." Title 22, Section 2656 of the U.S. Code states:
Terrorism means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.
Both of these definitions focus on motive rather than target. Such motives can be religious, cultural, political, economic, or psychological. In the traditional definitions of terrorism, targets are usually governments, political figures, objects of economic or social significance, or random civilians. But both motives and targets can include environmental and ecological resources.
Environmental Terrorism, Ecoterrorism, and Environmental Warfare
Important distinctions should be made between three different categories of environmental violence: environmental terrorism, ecoterrorism, and more traditional forms of war that may intentionally or unintentionally affect the environment. The focus of this chapter is on the first of these categories, but I discuss the others as well to provide some context.
In recent years, U.S. law enforcement agencies have had to deal with a range of concerns and activities increasingly defined as terrorism. For example, in 2006, the FBI announced arrests in several cases of property destruction thought to have been caused by extreme animal rights or environmental groups. Indeed, FBI Director Mueller said one of the bureau's "highest domestic terrorism priorities" is prosecuting people who commit crimes "in the name of animal rights or the environment" ( Janofsky 2006). This kind of activity, however, should be considered ecoterrorism not environmental terrorism (Schwartz 1998; Schofield 1999).
An important distinction exists between the two. Environmental terrorism is the unlawful use of force against environmental resources or systems, with the intent to harm individuals or deprive populations of environmental benefit(s) in the name of a political or social objective. This distinguishes it from ecoterrorism, which is the unlawful use of force against people or property, with the intent of saving the environment from further human encroachment and destruction. The professed aim of ecoterrorists is to slow or halt exploitation of natural resources and to bring public attention to environmental issues (Lee 1995; Chalecki 2001). In 2002, Jarboe, Domestic Terrorism Section Chief of the FBI, offered the following definition of ecoterrorism:
the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against innocent victims or property by an environmentally oriented, subnational group for environmental-political reasons, or aimed at an audience beyond the target, often of a symbolic nature.
Simply put, environmental terrorism involves targeting natural resources and the environment for a political, social, or economic objective. Ecoterrorism involves targeting social, political, or economic resources for an environmental objective.
A difference also exists between environmental warfare and environmental terrorism. The easiest distinction is that although both target environmental assets and natural resources, warfare is usually conducted by the state and terrorism by nonstate actors.
Warfare is sometimes governed by two complementary criteria: jus ad bellum ("just cause") (war must be declared for a good reason) and jus in bello (war must be conducted in a just fashion). The first criterion states that the cause for war must be right and that legal, economic, diplomatic, and all other recourses must have been attempted. However, the government of a state fighting a civil war might see rebel forces as threats to the existence of the state, whereas the same rebel forces may see clear justifications for fighting a government that it considers oppressive or illegitimate. Accordingly, evaluating "just cause" is problematic as a way to define terrorism. Hence, the popular expression "one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter" was adopted in the Oxford definition, as shown earlier.
The second criterion, jus in bello, implies behavioral constraints on the part of the combatants, chiefly among them the principle that noncombatants are not to be targeted in the conflict (Beres 1995; Stern 1999; Chalecki 2001; Maiese 2003). The jus in bello criterion, the guiding force behind the Geneva Conventions and the Environmental Modification Convention, acknowledges that although collateral environmental damage may occur, environmental resources are not to be intentionally targeted during war unless there is a direct military advantage to doing so, and, even then, effort must be made to avoid or reduce incidental damage. Terrorism violates the jus in bello criterion, because targeting noncombatants often lies at the core of its strategy. The idea that a target is environmental and not human does not blur the distinction between warfare and terrorism. Environmental warfare operates within the larger objective of war: to defeat the enemy's military forces or capacity (Centner 1996). Because of the larger risks of collateral casualties, however, the international community has highlighted and imposed special constraints on environmental warfare, as noted earlier.
History of Water-Related Conflict
A long history exists of the use of water resources as both a target and tool of war and terrorism (Gleick 1993; see also Water Brief 4). Water resources or systems can be used as delivery vehicles to cause violence to a human population. Water supplies can be poisoned, and dams can be destroyed to harm downstream populations. Both of these tactics have been used in traditional warfare and intrastate conflicts. The Water Conflict Chronology (see pages 189–218) presents the history of water-related conflict, including terrorism, from ancient times to the present. An early example, from 1700 B.C., is the intentional damming of the Tigris River by Abi-Eshuh, a grandson of Hammurabi, in an effort to prevent the retreat of rebels seeking the independence of Babylon (Hatami and Gleick 1994). In 1573, at the beginning of the eighty-years war against Spain, the Dutch flooded the land to break the siege of Spanish troops on the town Alkmaar. The same defense was used to protect Leiden in 1574. This strategy became known as the Dutch Water Line (2002) and was used frequently for defense in later years. In 1938, Kai-shek ordered the destruction of flood-control dikes along the Huang He (Yellow) River to flood areas threatened by the Japanese army (Yang Lang 1989, 1994). The German army flooded land in 1944 in an effort to stop the liberation of Europe (Kirschner 1949), and the allies bombed dams during the same conflict.
Conversely, the environment or resources themselves may be targeted for destruction or compromise, with the collateral damages being felt by civilian populations. As noted previously, a subset of water-related violence can be described as environmental terrorism. Table 1.1 lists examples from the Water Conflict Chronology that can be described as terrorism. Even popular culture reflects public interest and concern over these issues. Box 1.1 lists some popular novels and films with plots touching on environmental terrorism or ecoterrorism.
The recorded history of attacks on water systems goes back 4,500 years ago, when Urlama, King of Lagash, from 2450 to 2400 B.C., diverted water from this region to boundary canals, drying up boundary ditches to deprive the neighboring city-state of Umma of water. His son Il later cut off the water supply to Girsu, a city in Umma. In an early example of biowarfare (or bioterrorism, depending on one's understanding of "states" and "governments" at the time), Solon of Athens besieged Cirrha around 600 B.C., for a wrong done to the temple of Apollo, and put the poison hellebore roots (or rye ergot; reports differ) into the local water supply. This reportedly caused the Cirrhaeans to become violently ill, which eased the seizure of the city (Eitzen and Takafuji 1997).
Excerpted from The World's Water 2006-2007 by Peter H. Gleick. Copyright © 2006 Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security. Excerpted by permission of ISLAND PRESS.
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Table of Contents
ContentsAbout Island Press,
About the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and,
CHAPTER 1 - Water and Terrorism,
CHAPTER 2 - Going with the Flow: Preserving and Restoring Instream Water Allocations,
CHAPTER 3 - With a Grain of Salt: An Update on Seawater Desalination,
CHAPTER 4 - Floods and Droughts,
CHAPTER 5 - Environmental Justice and Water,
CHAPTER 6 - Water Risks that Face Business and Industry,
WATER BRIEF 1 - Bottled Water: An Update,
WATER BRIEF 2 - Water on Mars,
WATER BRIEF 3 - Time to Rethink Large International Water Meetings,
WATER BRIEF 4 - Environment and Security: Water Conflict Chronology Version, 2006-2007,
WATER BRIEF 5 - The Soft Path in Verse,
DATA TABLE 1 - Total Renewable Freshwater Supply by Country,
DATA TABLE 2 - Freshwater Withdrawal by Country and Sector,
DATA TABLE 3 - Access to Safe Drinking Water by Country, 1970 to 2002,
DATA TABLE 4 - Access to Sanitation by Country, 1970 to 2002,
DATA TABLE 5 - Access to Water Supply and Sanitation by Region, 1990 and 2002,
DATA TABLE 6 - Annual Average ODA for Water, by Country, 1990 to 2004 (Total and Per Capita),
DATA TABLE 7 - Twenty Largest Recipients of ODA for Water, 1990 to 2004,
DATA TABLE 8 - Twenty Largest Per Capita Recipients of ODA for Water, 1990 to 2004,
DATA TABLE 9 - Investment in Water and Sewerage Projects with Private Participation, by Region, in Middle- and Low-Income Countries, 1990 to 2004,
DATA TABLE 10 - Bottled Water Consumption by Country, 1997 to 2004,
DATA TABLE 11 - Global Bottled Water Consumption, by Region, 1997 to 2004,
DATA TABLE 12 - Per Capita Bottled Water Consumption by Region, 1997 to 2004,
DATA TABLE 13 - Per Capita Bottled Water Consumption, by Country, 1999 to 2004,
DATA TABLE 14 - Global Cholera Cases and Deaths Reported to the World Health Organization, 1970 to 2004,
DATA TABLE 15 - Reported Cases of Dracunculiasis by Country, 1972 to 2005,
DATA TABLE 16 - Irrigated Area, by Region, 1961 to 2003,
DATA TABLE 17 - Irrigated Area, Developed and Developing Countries, 1961 to 2003,
DATA TABLE 18 - The U.S. Water Industry Revenue (2003) and Growth (2004-2006),
DATA TABLE 19 - Pesticide Occurrence in Streams, Groundwater, Fish, and Sediment in the United States,
DATA TABLE 20 - Global Desalination Capacity and Plants—January 1, 2005,
DATA TABLE 21 - 100 Largest Desalination Plants Planned, in Construction, or in Operation—January 1, 2005,
DATA TABLE 22 - Installed Desalination Capacity by Year, Number of Plants, and Total Capacity, 1945 to 2004,
Water Units, Data Conversions, and Constants,
Comprehensive Table of Contents,
Island Press Board of Directors,